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Branching out: Vicki McAfee’s Herbal-based business continues to grow

Published on November 8, 2017 7:04AM

Over the past 16 years, Vicki McAfee has moved three times to accommodate her growing business in Astoria. Today her store, A Gypsy’s Whimsy Herbal Apothecary, carries hundreds of varieties of herbs and fair-trade products from around the world.

Over the past 16 years, Vicki McAfee has moved three times to accommodate her growing business in Astoria. Today her store, A Gypsy’s Whimsy Herbal Apothecary, carries hundreds of varieties of herbs and fair-trade products from around the world.

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Vicki McAfee has experienced a growing demand for alternative medicine. A clinical herbalist and nutritionist, McAfee specializes in helping deal with allergies, and chronic and autoimmune diseases.

Photo by LUKE WHITAKKER

Vicki McAfee has experienced a growing demand for alternative medicine. A clinical herbalist and nutritionist, McAfee specializes in helping deal with allergies, and chronic and autoimmune diseases.

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How did you get started?

“I’m a clinical herbalist and nutritionist. I was seeing clients out of my home. I started looking for an office space and I ended up finding a storefront, and I thought ‘Well, I’ll start an herb store’. Now it’s grown into this.”

Did you have formal training?

“Yes. I went to the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies in Boulder for a three-year clinical program, then I went to Seattle for a nutrition program. Last year I became a registered herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild. It requires that you’ve been in practice for a number of years and followed a code of ethics.”

How long have you had the store?

“The store just had a 16th anniversary on September 1st. We’ve been at this location about four months. We were across the street for 13 ½ years.”

How has the business evolved since first opening 16 years ago?

“When I first opened the doors, I was in space where Metal Head is (1126 Marine Drive). It was 9 by 23 feet. I had my herbs, supplements, body care items and a handful of gifts. I was there for a couple years and it was great — my overhead was super low. Then I moved to place that was 2,000 square feet so I had to start filling it in, so I started bringing in fair-trade imports and other gifts.”

How do you decide what you’re going to have on your shelves?

“Whatever I’m interested in pretty much. My husband calls our house ‘inventory.’ There are very few things in here that I don’t adore. Because of the fair trade imports, I have a lot of jewelry and gifts from all over the world. I also have some silly American-made gag gifts. I pick out what I like and it seems to work.”

Are there any particular items or areas you’re increasing stock?

“The bulk herbs. I’ve always had at least 250 varieties but now it’s expanded way beyond that. Over the course of 16 years, people seem to be more health-conscious. At one time, the gifts supported my clinic work, and now it’s the herbs that support my clinic work.”

How supportive is the community?

“They’re incredible. I wouldn’t be here — not after 16 years — if it weren’t for locals. They support me. It’s a beautiful community.”

Have there been any lessons you’ve learned through experience?

“Maybe don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I’ve had people who’ve gone by the shop hiding their children’s eyes saying ‘Don’t look in there, it’s a witch’s shop.’ But you can’t judge a book by its cover. A great teacher once told me that when somebody comes in, to listen to the question and not the emotion, because you don’t know what they just went through. It’s helped me out.”

What part brings you the greatest satisfaction?

“Helping people.”

Is there anything people come in for that you wish more were aware you offered?

“I wish more people were aware of the service I offer for free. I will make appointments if someone has problem that’s chronic, but I really enjoy having people come in and letting me help them.”

Is there an area that you consider your forte or specialty?

“Autoimmune, allergies and deep chronic disease. My clinic director was an autoimmune specialist and that’s where a lot of my training came.”



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